Saturday, June 30, 2012

So long, Isaiah Crowell

Oh hey look Isaiah Crowell is in trouble again oh wait he's freakin' gone:
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell, who was in and out of Bulldogs coach Mark Richt's doghouse as a freshman, was dismissed from the team Friday after being arrested on weapons charges by Athens-Clarke County Police overnight.

Crowell, from Columbus, Ga., was arrested and charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor, according to the Athens-Clarke County Jail booking report. Crowell, 19, was charged with a felony count of possessing a weapon in a school zone, a felony count of altered identification mark and a misdemeanor count of possession/carrying a concealed weapon. He was arrested around 2:20 a.m. ET after being stopped at a vehicle checkpoint near the Georgia campus and booked at 3:37 a.m.

Crowell was dismissed from the team in the late afternoon.
Least surprising police-report tidbit ever: The gun was found after one of the cops smelled marijuana (which wasn't found since it presumably had already been smoked, hence the smell) and requested a search. This would seem to go without saying but obviously doesn't: smoking weed + cruising at 2 a.m. + carrying an illegal weapon = guh.

Crowell was easily Georgia's leading rusher last year as a freshman after being a top-10-overall recruit, although his usage varied quite a bit thanks to various malfeasances. He had 185 carries for 850 yards (4.6 a pop) and five touchdowns, with almost all of that production coming in the first eight games. He then sat out the first quarter of the Vanderbilt game for an "academic-related issue" before being suspended two weeks later for all of the New Mexico State game for failing a drug test. He returned with an awesome game against Auburn (141 yards and a touchdown) but tore a ligament in his ankle and got a total of 15 carries in the final four games.

So ... the guy has legit talent/ability when he's not injured or doing stupid things. I'd pencil him in as North Alabama's next salvation project if not for two things: (a) He's only a sophomore and hasn't taken a redshirt, which means he could transfer anywhere and still have three years of eligibility after sitting out this year, and (b) he's got some serious legal issues right now that will probably preclude him doing anything immediate.

From the ESPN story:
According to a police report issued Friday, the serial number on a 9-millimeter Luger found under the driver's seat had been scratched off completely, but Crowell denied knowing a gun was there, saying other people drive his car.

Police said the altered ID-mark charge stems from the tampered serial number.

Crowell could face a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence between two and 10 years if found guilty of weapons possession on school property, while a guilty verdict for criminal use of an article with an altered ID mark carries a sentence between one and five years.
The "I didn't know it was there" argument is a hilarious one but (non-lawyer disclaimer) might at least get him a plea deal down to a misdemeanor since he wasn't using the gun and it presumably can't really be connected to him without a serial number. I'll be surprised if he ever serves significant time -- unless/until he violates his probation, anyway -- and not being incarcerated is pretty much the only requirement to play at most jucos and Michigan State (zing!). We'll see.

As for Georgia, the returning backs were pretty uninspiring last year save for maybe Ken Malcome, a redshirt freshman who didn't play at all until the final four games but took over the nominal starting job late and finished with 42 carries for 173 yards. A pretty good performance against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl and a reportedly impressive spring (he was named Georgia's most improved player) got him listed as co-starter alongside Crowell on the post-spring depth chart, for whatever that's worth.

I will not be entirely surprised if true freshman Keith Marshall, arguably the top running back in the country who had offers from literally everybody and enrolled early to go through spring ball, wins the starting job coming out of camp. Georgia people were saying superlative stuff about him ...
“You can tell why he was the No. 1 running back in the country,” senior receiver Tavarres King said. “That kid is impressive.”

Said running backs coach Bryan McClendon: “Just a super guy, just very conscientious. He’s smart. He’s a sharp kid who wants to to do well at everything. Obviously he has all the ability to match it. When you say the sky’s the limit for a person, I really think that phrase it made for him.”
... before he tweaked his hamstring and missed the spring game, and I don't see his freshman-ness as an issue since Crowell got 15 carries in the opener against Boise last year and never fewer than that until the suspension-shortened Vandy game.

So the problem isn't so much a lack of a guys -- Marshall might be good, Malcome might be good and Carlton Thomas and Richard Samuel are acceptable backups -- but a lack of an obvious No. 1 guy who could've gone for 1,500 yards this year if he had just stopped doing stupid things. Marshall might be that guy down the road but probably won't be better this year than the sophomore version of Crowell would've been.

Feel-better caveat: Aaron Murray exists. That is all.

It's a big jump from nothing to something

So ... this post obviously got delayed a little bit since I promised it Wednesday and it's now Saturday. Apologies, etc.

There was a post on the old, crappy version of this blog about a playoff-type thing and why I wasn't really sure I wanted one. My reasoning was basically this: Lots of money + lots of people with a vested interest = a fustercluck of a thing with way too many teams and thus the end of a meaningful regular season. In other words, the 9-7 Giants. I didn't really consider the possibility of something with fewer than eight teams that would therefore be acceptable/appropriate because my assumption at the time was that any playoff would be mandated by the NCAA (or maybe Congress) and required to include all conference champs, meaning at least 12 teams and probably 16 or 24, which no thanks.

It's not that I didn't want a playoff; I just didn't want a stupid playoff that would result in me turning into Chris Crocker ...

... after watching college football turn into college basketball, which literally nobody (except the Dick Vitale-type folk) cares about until March since basically nothing matters until March. There's something to be said for having, like, important games and stuff during the season. IMO, maintaining that has always been as important as resolving the ridiculousness of 2003 Auburn/2004 USC/2008 Utah/insert screwed-over team here. I'm also kind of a sucker for the idealistic concept of the "best" team and the champion being one and the same; that's kinda the point of playing a season, right?

The thing that now exists isn't entirely optimal -- six teams with byes and on-campus semifinals, plz -- but comes reasonably close in terms of size and structure. It's amazing that in the span of about 18 months, the interest level in a playoff among the people who matter went from zero to "YEAH RIGHT NOW!" and actually produced something not disastrous.

The BCS took a lot of crap for the wrong reason: The system itself wasn't as faulty as the concept of the system, which was to pick two deserving teams from a field of (usually) more than two deserving teams with little meaningful data to distinguish them. Not possible. The inherent problems with the polls and here-are-some-numbers-that-mean-something computer rankings were just the facade that took the bombarding.

I've seen/heard a lot of stuff the past couple weeks about how this playoff-type thing isn't really a playoff and isn't really significant because of said non-playoff-ness. My response: Nay.

ESPN's Ivan Maisel wrote this about a week ago:
(The playoff) may be an incremental change in the game, but it is a sea change in the philosophy of the postseason.
He's exactly right. It took about 130 years (!!!) of organized-ish college football to go from nothing to something in terms of a coordinated postseason (I'm not counting the BCS since that was really just an affiliation of high-profile bowls that didn't change the system/structure). The talking-about-it part has been going on for as long as I'm alive; the doing-something part required a total overhaul of the thought process that had important people freaking out about the idea of a plus-one just four years ago.

I was never much of a chemistry fan but remember learning about enthalpy and state changes in a couple requisite college chem and physics classes. I'm not sure I can explain it very well without just reciting an example; I'll use the melting of ice. The warming of a block of ice -- from, say, 10 degrees below freezing to freezing, at which point it's still ice -- requires about 28,000 joules. That's a relatively small amount of energy. The melting of that block of ice -- which requires no temperature change at all but a state change from solid to liquid for every molecule -- requires about 430,000 joules. That's, like, a lot more.

Obvious segue statement: A playoff is a state change. "Death to the BCS" and Craig Thompson's playoff jabbering back in 2008 and Mike Slive's plus-one proposal the same year represented the temperature-change part that established the possibility of said state change.

The plus-one actually would've been a far easier and far less significant step and therefore seemed a more likely transition, especially after the aforementioned Slive thing; it didn't get very far but obviously had some influential support. That said, I'm so, so glad that proposal died a fiery death, because a plus-one was never the answer; it was a compromise that would've lived in the ether between the BCS and a playoff without really being either one and thus not solving the things only a playoff can solve.

This appeared in one of my playoff-related posts about a month ago:
I really have no interest in a plus-one given the potential for multiple-undefeated-teams weirdness. Example: Take the BCS title game out of last year's equation and you end up with LSU beating somebody in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama beating somebody in (probably) the Orange Bowl and Oklahoma State beating somebody in the Fiesta Bowl. Adding a step would help provide some extra data points but wouldn't always do any of the settle-it-on-the-field thing; this would be especially problematic in the event of a TCU or Boise going unbeaten and not getting matched up with another playoff-caliber team for reference/elimination.

That could still be a problem in a straight-up four-team playoff, I guess, but the inability to find a perfect answer =/= the inability to find a better answer. 

The way I see it, there's a significant difference between a seeded four-team bracket and an additional bowl that would still require picking two teams from a group that might or might not have been sufficiently narrowed down by the first layer of bowls. The latter scenario would've represented something other than a state change, and I would not have needed to see 12 or 16 or however many years of a plus-one to make that determination.

A six-team bracket with byes and on-campus semifinals and ice cream notwithstanding, the thing that's being implemented does about as well as realistically possible at straddling the fine line between "woo plus-one pointlessness" and "ARGH Y U WANNA BE NFL???" I would still prefer the six teams and ice cream and whatnot, just to be clear.

Acknowledgment: It's not only possible but definite that this whole playoff thing is already being overrated. This was the lede to Gene Wojcadskfjadflkj's column on Tuesday:
Presenting the five greatest documents in American history:

1. The Declaration of Independence.

2. The United States Constitution.

3. The Bill of Rights.

4. The 14th Amendment.

5. The just-announced college football playoff agreement.

I know what you're thinking: This is ridiculous. Why is the new 12-year playoff agreement ranked so low?

And you're right, of course.
Mmmmkay. This does not warrant a direct response.

I started thinking the other day about how much awesome-er it'd be to watch Michigan in a post-semifinals championship game than a regular BCS championship game and then realized that the awesomeness would be pretty much exactly the same (except for the one extra win against a top-four team the previous week). I mean, the bowl-site semifinals will be way different/better in terms of intensity and atmosphere and all that, but the games will still be the games and will still be played at neutral sites with a moderately interested crowd, the Goodyear blimp and Brent Musberger doing his "You're looking live ..." thing. Insert standard adamant phrasing about the need for on-campus semifinals.

BTW, that was prompted by the following tweet from friend of the blog Brett:
This so-called BCS "playoff" is the InNOut of sports. Love it, want it, but can still admit it's ridiculously overrated.
Yeah, pretty much ... at least in an on-field-product sense. That said, I don't think it's possible to overrate the significance of the structural/philosophical change required to produce said "playoff." This would be an appropriate spot to refer back to the Ivan Maisel blockquote roughly 1,000 words ago about the "sea change" or whatever in regards to the recognition that picking two teams for a championship game does not necessarily produce a true champion.

There'd be some irony in that philosophical change being the thing that eventually produces a FOUR-WEEK PLAYOFF EXTRAVAGANZA SATURDAY SATURDAY SATURDAY; I hope that never happens (for all the reasons listed at the top of this post) but have to acknowledge its possibility. To clarify, I'd be OK with eight teams but not at all OK with any number bigger than eight; in that regard, starting at four creates two levels of Downy-soft padding (six-team perfection and eight-team acceptability) between the playoff-type thing that'll exist through at least 2025 and hypothetical outrage. I'm pretty comfortable with that.

This has gotten way longer than intended and doesn't really have a logical ending, so I'm just gonna stop here. The tl;dr version: A state change just happened, and I'm definitely down with it since this state is somewhere in between the old state that sucked and the hypothetical state I feared would suck even more.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's officially official

It's playoff time (in 2014):
A committee of university presidents on Tuesday approved the BCS commissioners' plan for a four-team playoff to start in two years.

Lulz at all that stuff I wrote about the presidents getting all presidential and screwing everything up; they got a consensus recommendation and approved it about three hours later, which makes this quote ...
"There were differences of views," Virginia Tech president Charles W. Steger said. "I think it would be a serious mistake to assume it was a rubber stamp."
... kinda nonsensical. Instant approval + zero Harvey Perlman plus-one filibusters = rubber stamp.

So ... it's official (the outline is, anyway). There will be a playoff (!!!) comprised of four teams and semifinals that rotate between the six BCS games (the Champions Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl and an assortment of three other games that will probably include the Sugar Bowl and the Cotton Bowl) via a contract that runs through 2025.

What's not official: the details. There apparently wasn't any discussion of the selection process/guidelines or revenue distribution, both of which will require some negotiating that will undoubtedly include ominous comments and politicking and blah blah blah. I was expecting a little more immediate specificity to the general agreements that (a) there will be a committee made up of some people -- presumably conference commissioners and/or athletic directors, a la the NCAA tournament committee -- and (b) there will be money to go around. I'm also minimally concerned seeing as how they got the complicated part done in about three meetings and now have about three months before needing a finalized version to pitch to the networks.

There's not much else to say/write here about the aforementioned approval given the previous 487 (approximately) related posts on this site. Playoff playoff playoff. Playoff.

More reaction -- of the non-newsy, what-it-means-to-me variety -- tomorrow.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Catching up wears Ohio State gear to church

Robert Nkemdiche to Clemson: Clemson's annual inexplicable recruiting jackpot: Robert Nkemdiche, a defensive end out of Georgia who's the consensus top recruit in the country and therefore probably worth mentioning here. Details from ESPN:
Robert Nkemdiche, the No. 1 prospect in the ESPN 150 from Loganville, Ga., committed to Clemson on Thursday during an expected three-day, unofficial visit to the ACC program.

"I did commit," Nkemdiche said. "I love Clemson.

The 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end at Grayson High School picked the Tigers over offers from programs across the country, including Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss.

Nkemdiche emerged as a five-star prospect after an 18-sack sophomore season and followed it up with another 18 sacks for the undefeated Class 5A state champion Rams while scoring 17 touchdowns at running back as a junior.
The surprising thing isn't necessarily that he picked Clemson but that he didn't pick Alabama (the presumed favorite because of being Alabama) or Georgia or even take his official visits, instead making an out-of-nowhere announcement almost eight months before Signing Day. Possible explanation: Two of his high school teammates/buddies recently committed to Clemson, which says something about Dabo Swinney's recruiting intuition and something else about the weirdness of spending a crapload of time figuring out what's most enticing to 17-year-olds.

As for Clemson, this random commenter's analysis wins the internet:
Clemson gonna Clemson ... and by that I mean Clemson will get some crazy good recruits, have a nice 9-3 year, build-up lots of hype for the next year, get epically blown out by someone, lose a few games inexplicably, and finish that season 6-6. Repeat until world ends.

Of course: Relatively highly touted running back Greg Garmon signed with Iowa in February. You know what comes next:
Iowa incoming freshman running back Greg Garmon has been charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana in his hometown of Erie, Pa., according to multiple media reports.

The Erie Times-News reported that police stopped Garmon's car on June 1 and found a small amount of marijuana in the vehicle. Garmon also was charged with driving with an expired registration.

Iowa has yet to comment on Garmon's legal situation.
Derp. The charges themselves aren't that serious but will be problematic for a freshman with a legitimate chance to start, a chance that exists because Macus Coker got dismissed transferred to Stony Brook, Mikail McCall left school and Jordan Canzeri had his knee destroyed by AIRBHG. And all that happened after Adam Robinson got dismissed, Brandon Weghter transferred after being suspended, Jewel Hampton tore his ACL (for the second time) and so on and so forth.

In other words, the depth chart is nonexistent. The healthy-and-not-suspended alternatives on the roster include sophomore DeAndre Johnson, sometimes receiver Damon Bullock, fifth-year walk-on Jason White (not that Jason White) and incoming (but not as highly touted) freshman Barkley Hill. FWIW, Johnson had 18 carries last year (Bullock and White have 16 combined in their careers) and therefore is the nominal leader in the clubhouse.

The inanity of APR: Just to clarify that APR is not nearly as correlated with actual academic success as the NCAA likes to pretend it is:
In the latest figures from the NCAA, Ohio State football’s four-year average APR — capped by the 2010-11 school year, Tressel’s last — was 988. It was the third-highest among major programs nationally and second only to Northwestern in the Big Ten.
Ummm ... yeah. On a related note, Kentucky's basketball program hasn't graduated a guy in roughly 18 years but has posted a 979 in each of the past two years, tying with Vanderbilt for the highest score in the SEC last year.

The thing about APR is that it's not really a measure of academic quality or success as much as it is a measure of player eligibility and retention (transfers and draft entries are counted as ineligibles if the relevant players don't finish the semester), and it should be obvious that keeping guys eligible is not necessarily an indicator that they're getting a quality education; in some cases, it's just the opposite. Insert Andy Katzenmoyer joke here.

Speaking of Ohio State: BHGP finished its epic Pro Combat mockup series this week with a complete obliteration of all things Ohio State. A visual sample (the detail doesn't make much sense without the key at the bottom of the post but is truly amazing):

And a written sample:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that hell is other Buckeye fans," says Christopher Polyblend as he takes a sip from his espresso at a corner table in Le Canard de Nuit, the Nike designer's favorite Eugene eatery. "Overbearing, arrogant, entitled, they are just ..." -- Polyblend shakes his head -- "They are just the worst. Everyone knows this."
The brilliantly named Christopher Polyblend speaks the truth. Enjoy.

The Pac-12 allegedly has a network: The Pac-12 Network released an early-season TV schedule the other day that includes a couple games of potential interest, most notably Arizona-Oklahoma State in Week 2 and Cal-USC in Week 4. So that's nice ... but visibility is gonna be pretty limited seeing as how the Pac-12 does not have a distribution deal with either Dish Network or DirecTV. The Big Ten Network had similar distribution issues early on (I believe Dish was the only major provider, even among cable companies, that carried the BTN in its first season), and that was a massive pain in the ass about three times that season.

It's nice that literally every football and men's basketball game will be available online if you're a subscriber to any of the affiliated providers -- if you have internet through Cox, for example -- but that won't be of any help to most of the people who can't watch the games on TV and therefore would be the main demographic looking for the games online. FWIW, my understanding is that the ESPN3-type deal is viewed as more of a long-term investment based on increased mobile usage. People who work on Saturdays and own a smartphone will be most appreciative.

Anyway, be prepared to find a bar/friend's house/whatever if you have satellite (like I do) and would like to watch any of the Pac-12 network games (like I will). Argh.

Jesse Scroggins is going the juco route: Jesse Scroggins has found a (temporary) home:
Former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins is transferring to El Camino College, Warriors coach John Featherstone confirmed to Thursday.

Scroggins announced he was transferring last month after being buried on the depth chart following two seasons with the Trojans. He'll compete to start at El Camino this fall with the plan of then moving on to another four-year school in January, with two years of eligibility remaining.
Scroggins was the No. 2 QB recruit in the country a couple years ago and should have some options if he can get his grades together at El Camino; talent isn't a problem since he'd probably still be Matt Barkley's backup if not for the academic issues at USC. As noted above, he's a redshirt sophomore this year, which means he'll have two years of eligibility left at whatever FBS school he ends up at in 2013.

Banner derp: North Dakota received an awesome FCS championship banner from the NCAA last week, which was probably pretty surprising since North Dakota did not win the national championship. The winner: North Dakota State. Oops.
According to a report in the Grand Forks Herald, the enclosed letter was signed by Kelly Dodds, the assistant director of the NCAA's Hall of Champions, and read:

"Dear Mr. Faison:

"Enclosed find your 2011 championship banner that hung in the NCAA Hall of Champions. I hope your team, faculty, staff and students can now enjoy it as much as our visitors did."
"Mr. Faison" is Brian Faison, the athletic director at North Dakota (which is not North Dakota State). Clerical errors FTW.

Anyway, Faison said he plans to send the banner to its appropriate home at North Dakota State, which wasn't even aware it was supposed to be getting a banner and really has no idea what's going on.
Ryan Perrault, the associate director of athletic media relations at NDSU, said that the school only learned about the error today. In fact, it was only vaguely aware that the banner even existed, completely clueless that it was in transit to North Dakota.

"It's not something that we ordered," Perrault said.
It seems like this could have been avoided if only the banner weren't so ambiguous:


The UGA cake: A Georgia Tech fan put together the greatest/most disturbing wedding cake in the history of wedding cakes. Proof:

AAHHHH! The realism in the entrails is truly impressive and horrifying, as is the attention to detail in the wrinkly skin and facial features and whatnot. That's some serious "Cake Boss" stuff.

As for the disturbing part, the original photo on Reddit is referred to as "tasteless," which duh; the expectations for inappropriateness are high for dudes who matriculate from a school with a fight song that includes "to hell with Georgia," six other profanities and a request for a college bell in which to mix rum and 3,000 pounds of sugar.

They take their everything seriously.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Great googly moogly: It's a playoff-type thing

The thing I said had a 0.04 percent chance of happening yesterday actually happened: There is a consensus on a four-team playoff-type thing.

CHICAGO -- The BCS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick on Wednesday endorsed a seeded four-team playoff model for college football that would begin for the 2014 season.

All that stuff about the presidents having to get involved and be all presidential in the process has been rendered moot; all they have to do now is officially approve this thing next Tuesday, which should be a formality since the Oversight Committee's only real participatory role throughout the existence of the BCS has been to sign off on whatever tweaks were being recommended. In other words, it should be a formality, although ESPN says they'll still nominally discuss other options (specifically the plus-one) since they want to be "full and complete."

Whatever. It's happening.

A probably-obvious-but-important observation: This is not a plus-one, which would just add one layer of games in between the regular season and the championship game and unquestionably still result in some scenarios with more than two deserving teams at the end. The thing that's being implemented is essentially an extension from a two-team playoff (which is what exists right now) to a four-team one, which means (a) the team that wins will, by definition, have the strongest resume of anybody in the country by virtue of beating at least two other top-four teams to end the year and (b) it's much, much less likely that somebody will get screwed.

I went back through the history of the BCS and found the following teams that could have been considered legitimately deserving (at least as deserving as one of the top two, in other words) but would've been left out of a four-team bracket:

2009: No. 6 Boise State, 12-0 (Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati and TCU were all unbeaten)
2008: No. 5 USC, 11-1, and No. 6 Utah, 12-0 (Oklahoma, Florida, Texas and Alabama all had one loss)
2007: The year of chaos; there were six two-loss teams behind No. 1 Ohio State, so differentiating between the fourth team in and the three teams out wouldn't have been easy. No. 10 Hawaii went 12-0 but wasn't that great and proved it by getting utterly destroyed by two-loss Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
2006: No. 8 Boise State, 12-0
2004: No. 6 Utah, 12-0, and No. 9 Boise State, 12-0
1998: There were four relatively comparable one-loss teams that would have been shoehorned into the three spots behind No. 1 Tennessee.

It's also worth mentioning that Tulane, Miami (OH) and Marshall had undefeated seasons in there but at no point even entered the BCS discussion since ... I mean ... yeah. The Hawaii thing. I'm not sure exactly how that fits into a limited playoff format but would have a hard time arguing for those teams' inclusion when they really did nothing to demonstrate being elite (that's the difference between those teams and the above-listed Boise and Utah teams).

Anyway, that list demonstrates why a four-team bracket is not entirely perfect: There have been some seasons featuring more than four potentially title-worthy teams. FWIW, my personal preference would be a six-team playoff with byes for the top two (woo regular season!) and on-campus siting for the first two rounds. I don't ever want anything bigger than that; the regular season really starts to lose its value when the top 16 teams (teams that went 8-4, in some cases) are getting thrown into a blender at neutral sites. In that scenario, there's literally no benefit to having gone 12-0 rather than having gone 10-2 (other than a nominally easier path based on seeding that may or may not be very accurate). But the four-team playoff-type thing preserves almost all the value of the regular season and still takes care of a large majority of the really egregious BCS ridiculi (that's plural for ridiculousness), most notably Auburn in '03, Florida State/Miami/Washington in '01 and Florida/Michigan in '06. I can find only three seasons (1998, 2007 and 2008) in which at least major-conference one team that could've made a reasonable argument for inclusion in a title-determining playoff wasn't included. That's improvement, especially with Boise and Utah now in major(-ish) conferences.

As I explained in a Facebook post earlier today, what I really want out of a playoff is this: determine the national champion only from the teams that proved deserving over the course of the regular season without de-emphasizing said regular season in any way. It's pretty obvious that there's no system that'll be perfect since (a) perfect is an entirely objective thing and (b) the circumstances vary significantly from year to year. Still, the four-team thing -- from a format standpoint, specifically -- is closer to my version of perfect than most of the realistic alternatives are. So that's nice.

That said, the siting plan sucks. Details:
The two national semifinal games would be played within the existing BCS bowl games (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar) on a rotating basis, with the host sites being predetermined before each season. The national championship game would be offered to the highest bidding city. 
Bleh. The lack of on-campus semifinal games is really inexcusable given the difficulty of traveling twice, sometimes cross country both times, in the span of just over a week if your team of choice actually makes it that far. Rhetorical question: Who's gonna pay for a flight, a hotel, a $200-a-pop ticket and various other expenses for a semifinal game knowing that the two possible outcomes are (a) a devastating, season-ending loss and (b) a win that leads to another game that you now don't have the money to attend since you just blew your proverbial load? An answer to that rhetorical question: Almost nobody other than possibly the alumni who are local to the bowl site.

And I'm not sure what happened to the tie-in hosting plan, which was supposedly the favorite and at least would have created some tenuous geographical/historical connections by allowing the top two seeds to host at their affiliated bowl sites (Big Ten/Pac-12 at the Rose Bowl, SEC/Big 12 at wherever the Champions Bowl will be played, etc.). I liked that proposal a lot better than the one that's being recommended, which basically just rolls the playoff-type thing into the BCS rotation and will eventually result in USC playing Boise State in the Orange Bowl or something. Requesting seat fillers in Aisle Miami, plz.

It can't possibly be that difficult to coordinate the hosting of a playoff game rather than a regular BCS game on short notice (and there'd be about a month between the end of the regular season and the semifinals); what's the difference? And if there is none, why would anybody (other than the bowls, which should have no decision-making power) consider this an optimal arrangement? I just don't see the benefit to a rotational plan and saw plenty of benefits to the various other plans.

As for the selection process ...
Sources told that under the recommended model, four participating teams would be selected by a committee, which would consider certain criteria such as conference championships and strength of schedule.
... one exists.

I kinda like the idea of a selection committee (due to the potential for bracket/seeding flexibility based on common sense) but have some concerns about its size and potential biases. Hopefully it bears no resemblance to the coaches poll or the Harris Poll, which is filled with random people with tenuous connections to college football and 85-year-old former coaches who might be senile. The scary thing: I'm not exactly sure what would be better. I suppose I wouldn't mind an assortment of national media dudes (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Andy Staples, Ralph Russo, Dennis Dodd, Dan Wetzel, et al) who presumably get to see a ton of games and get some insider-y insight as to the relative quality of the relevant teams.

I also wouldn't mind some sort of subjective component -- computer ratings, basically -- but only in the event that the restrictions on margin of victory and whatnot get removed. I've been saying this for a while: There's no point using computer polls but mandating that certain useful data NOT be included. Remove the restrictions and the result would be FEI-type numbers -- adjusted for strength of schedule and efficiency -- that would be of some undeniable value in the selection discussions (kinda like how RPI used by the NCAA tournament committee). Just to be clear, I don't expect that to happen due to all the yammering about transparency, etc.

Anyway, I'm curious to see some detail on the whole committee thing. There's gotta be some specificity as to what exactly "considering certain criteria such as conference championships and strength of schedule" means given the aforementioned transparency talk; I'm not sure this is something I want left open to interpretation. And on a somewhat-related note, aren't conference championships and strength of schedule inherently built into the voting process? The redundant application of two arbitrarily selected factors won't somehow produce a more "accurate" or "representative" top four. I could see that being an issue for everybody outside the Big Ten/Pac-12/Big 12/SEC/ACC if/when it becomes apparent that the process is weighted and the Boise States of the world are still getting left out almost entirely because of conference affiliation. Whether that will be negated, at least to some extent, by whatever benefit is provided to conference champions remains to be seen.

So that's a concern. The siting thing is more of an annoyance than a concern; I will not like it and will openly campaign against it in favor of on-campus playoff games, which would be utterly awesome. Probably my biggest concern (this is from Ivan Maisel and pretty well summarizes my long-standing feelings about a playoff):
For years, the presidents and BCS proponents have told us that it is a law of nature that playoffs expand, that four teams will become eight, eight will become 16. If you think this is a good idea, you haven't paid attention to the state of the college basketball postseason, which is, of course, the very problem with the health of the college basketball regular season. ...

The playoff is not a panacea. Playoffs don't identify the best team of the season. They identify the best team at the end of the season. It well may be an incremental change in the game, but it is a sea change in the philosophy of the postseason.
Yessir. I have always wanted and will always want a season champion and not a playoff champion. The four-team playoff-type thing works for me in that regard in a way that a 16-team PLAYOFF EXTRAVAGANZA would not. I'm hoping the talk about preserving the value of the regular season actually means something in terms of limiting the scope of the postseason; it apparently has thus far, which is an indicator that the "law of nature" in terms of bracket expansion is not necessarily a law but rather an eventual likelihood. An eight-team setup would be suboptimal in terms of preserving the relevance of the regular season but not untenable; a 16-team bracket would induce so, so much ANGAR. It literally hurts me to imagine a scenario in which last year's LSU-Alabama game and the '06 Michigan-Ohio State game mean nothing other than seeding and temporary bragging rights that will be negated by playoff results. Do not want

But I probably won't have to worry about that until I'm at least 50 and have a perfectly manicured lawn; the present is for going "WOOOO" (exclamation points would be added if not for the uninspiring bowl-rotation compromise and the selection-related uncertainty). A playoff-type thing featuring the hypothetical top four teams in the country: We will haz one. I literally can't believe I just typed those particular words in that particular order.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My now-annual post about philly cheesesteaks

My lunch today was comprised primarily of Hot Pockets and therefore was no different from most other workday lunches. The only real variation: Today's Hot Pockets were filled with philly cheesesteak-type materials rather than the usual cheesy/bacon-y mix.

This was a totally meaningless variation until about two seconds after I started eating said Hot Pockets, at which point my brain was overwhelmed by 6-year-old memories brought on entirely by a very particular combination of philly cheesesteak ingredients. I would try to explain how/why this happened but really can't do so any better than I already did in a post that -- crazy coincidence ahoy -- was written exactly one year ago* today. That post appears below.

*June 15 shall heretofore be known as Forever Saturday Memorial Philly Cheesesteak Day.
. . . . .

Sometime back in my early college years, I sat in a class (I think it was Psychology 101) in an auditorium at Grand Valley State with about 80 or so other underclassmen and listened to a wise man talk about context's role in memory retrieval.

Since I'm not a neurologist or psychologist or whatever, there are many people out there who could explain it better, but I'll summarize the best I can: The closer you can get to accurately reproducing the circumstances under which you did something, the better you'll be able to remember the details. Example: If you sit at your desk and drink coffee while studying for a test, you'll probably do better on said test if you take it while sitting at your desk and drinking coffee (I can vouch for this). If you learn how to do your job at a specific computer, continuing to work at that computer is probably in your best interests in terms of remembering the details of your training. Etcetera.

The opposite is also true. Trying to remember high school (in a general sense) is an impossible task; remembering the specific things you did in high school -- a class, a prank, a game, a date with that one girl, whateva -- is infinitely easier. Sometimes you can only remember the big things by remembering the little things, because context is everything.
. . . . .

My wife and I had student season tickets to Michigan football in 2006, the Year That Should Have Been (stupid Ohio State). I'd been to probably half a dozen games at Michigan Stadium before that season; my wife was an Arizona lifer who'd never seen a real winter and showed it by wearing flip-flops in the Ann Arbor snow despite thinking she'd get frostbite when it was 52 degrees.

We lived in a bizarrely long, thin apartment in the family-housing part of North Campus. It had two stories (only the bedrooms were upstairs) and was made pretty much entirely of wood -- a match could have taken the entire building down in about 17 seconds. The first time we went to a game, we took the university bus. It was crowded ... except crowded isn't the right word. It had so many people on it that you didn't need to hang onto anything -- you were held in place by the mass of humanity stuffed into every corner of the bus like sardines. My wife said everybody smelled funny, which is entirely possible since they were mostly college freshmen who presumably didn't have much of an understanding of personal hygiene.

I remember almost nothing of the first game, the opener against Vanderbilt -- I vaguely recall Kevin Grady scoring on a nice cutback run from 20-ish yards for the first touchdown of the season. That's about it. And to be honest, I don't remember a whole lot else from that season either ... at least not specifically. I remember Adrian Arrington making a beautiful leaping catch in the back of the endzone in the win over Michigan State on the same day I passed up tickets to the Tigers' clinching win over the Yankees in the ALDS (man, what a year). I remember Steve Breaston dropping a lot of passes one day and then some kid in the street dropping a Nerf football while playing catch and saying, "look, I'm Steve Breaston." I remember the most horrific weather I've ever sat in for a football game (against Northwestern), when it was 35, windy and doing something resembling freezing rain for about 2 hours before we finally decided we'd had enough (well, my wife had decided that after 5 minutes, but it took me a little longer to give in). I think that was the day she decided to apply for a credit card at one of the vendor booths just so she could get the free blanket they were giving away.

Oddly enough, this is the thing I remember most: In Week 2, when Michigan had its annual beat-up-on-a-directional-school extravaganza against Central Michigan, the game was actually delayed by rain and lightning for about 15 or 20 minutes. It was still fairly early -- maybe late in the first quarter -- but while seeking shelter from the waves of rain, we stood under the bleachers in the concourse area and decided to get a philly cheesesteak.

I like philly cheesesteaks. They're quite delicious. But this philly cheesesteak was the best philly cheesesteak that has ever existed. I can't exactly describe why the Michigan Stadium ones are so good, but once you've had one, no other philly cheesesteak can ever compare. I'm pretty sure that immediately after we finished fighting over the aforementioned delicious cheesesteak -- and these things cost like $7.00, by the way -- we bought another one. And we were living on like zero spending money at the time, so this is an important addition to the story.
. . . . .

You might be wondering where I'm going with all this. Here's the thing: When I sit here at my computer -- with 77 days left until college football once again graces us with its presence -- and think of how much I miss football, I don't just think "I miss football," even if that's unequivocally true. Football is too general of a thing to miss -- sort of like trying to remember high school.

I don't miss "football" -- I miss that exhilarating feeling of walking into the stadium and knowing I might see something amazing in the next three hours; I miss waking up Saturday morning and feeling that kinda nervous, kinda intense knot in my stomach; I miss walking past the marching band doing ridiculous things outside Crisler; I miss the "BEAT OHIO" marquees on all the university buses the week of The Game; I miss watching Denard (even though I've only seen him on TV) slice through a hole with nothing in front of him but a Notre Dame/Indiana/UConn safety and a whole bunch of grass; I miss the philly cheesesteaks.

This might sound dumb to some people. If you're reading this blog, you're probably not one of those people.

A lot of progress was made at this meeting

So ... the conference commissioners met Wednesday in Chicago with the stated goal of making something resembling progress toward a playoff proposal for the Presidential Oversight Committee on June 26. I was legitimately excited for some updates. I got this instead (this is from AP but is substantially the same as what was produced by every other news outlet covering the thing):
The conference commissioners who have been working on a four-team playoff to determine college football's national champion plan to present the BCS presidential oversight committee multiple formats from which to choose.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said the university presidents will "have options -- plural" to consider when they meet in two weeks.
Oh. Awesome ... and by "awesome" I obviously mean "not at all awesome."

WTF happened? The explanatory detail provided thus far has been hilariously lacking (that's because of the commissioners, not the media). For some reason, nobody's saying anything about anything except in the most vague ways.

The only useful information I've been able to find was given off the record to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd:
"If the Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents had embraced the four-team playoff, then I think there would have been a place where everyone was on the same page, and then ready to fill in all the gaps," the source said.

"The Pac-12 is still dug in on some things that other people aren't," said one commissioner.
AAARRRRRGHGHGH!!! In gif form:

My understanding throughout the playoff-discussion process (and I believe this was the goal) was that the commissioners would present an agreed-upon plan and that approval of said plan would be a formality since, like, everybody had already agreed to it. But that quote about having "plural" options is horrifying because ... I mean ... "plural" does not imply any sort of consensus.

The way I see it, there are basically two potential here-are-the-proposals scenarios. The first: The commissioners have (or will have) a mostly finalized four-team concept and will be pitching that along with a dollar menu of accompanying options, which means punting to the presidents on the apparently divisive issues of participants (top four or something with a bias for conference champs) and selection format (committee or revised ranking system). The second: The commissioners have only a majority agreement and will put everything -- including a plus-one -- on the table and let the presidents negotiate their own adventure.

The apparent reality:
"They'll (the presidents) look at the four-team playoff and look at the plus-one," said another source. 
I'd be relatively OK with the first scenario since it'd limit the number and scale of talking points. I'm not at all OK with the reality scenario for the opposite reason: I do not want the format discussion reopened at the presidential level. There was a four-team consensus among the commissioners two freakin' months ago; that shouldn't be thrown out in deference to some other group of guys with even larger egos and even more expertise in politicking just because Jim Delany and Larry Scott and possibly a few Big Ten presidents got all pouty about the Rose Bowl (I'm assuming that's the issue based on the above-quoted comments about the Big Ten and Pac-12).

Here's the complete list of Oversight Committee dudes who are now relevant to the discussion:

Scott Cowen, Tulane
Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame
Bernie Machen, Florida
Max Nikias. USC
Duane Nellis, Idaho
Harvey Perlman, Nebraska
John G. Peters, Northern Illinois
Bill Powers, Texas
James Ramsey, Louisville
Charles W. Steger, Virginia Tech (chairman)
Gary Ransdell, Western Kentucky
John Welty, Fresno State

It's not hard to envision a scenario in which Harvey Perlman demands a plus-one, John Jenkins demands God's plan for a four-best-teams playoff, Bill Powers demands ALL OF THE MONEY for Texas and literally nothing gets accomplished. It's also not hard to envision a scenario in which everybody except Harvey Perlman decides that a plus-one is stupid, at which point all that's left to decide is the stuff that's left to decide now (which would still be divisive but not nearly as complicated as the format).

It's unclear exactly how the Oversight Committee works since I can't find any details about their procedures (I guess that's not surprising since they've never really been involved in the process before as anything other than a notary). A 12-member consensus about anything seems wildly unlikely but might be required, in which case I would lower my expectations for a timely resolution incrementally; they'd be on the floor if not for the deadline-type thing established by the BCS TV contract, which expires after next year and will be renegotiated this fall based on whatever postseason format will be in place in 2014 (that's the reasoning for the hypothetical 2014 playoff implementation). A projected playoff-based revenue increase of somewhere around 1,000 percent (!!!) oughta get some people motivated, yes?

My preference that it not come to that is irrelevant; it's probably gonna come to that. The "probably" qualifier is included only because the commissioners have a final meeting scheduled for next Wednesday that could produce some additional concessions/sacrifices and thus something resembling a consensus recommendation. The statistical chance of that happening: 0.04 percent (woo made-up stats). The likelihood of having something finalized by the Oversight Committee on June 26 is the same.

I suppose it doesn't really matter whether this gets decided in June or October, but it's so depressing that this is where things stand two months after ESPN was reporting that "the biggest issue has been settled" and John Swofford was saying that "it's great to get to a point where there seems to be a general consensus that a four-team, three-game playoff is the best route to go." Derp.

This comment from Bill Hancock would seem to be a more accurate assessment:
"It could be a while before the future of the game is known."
That's pretty much all I can write about a couple of vague post-meeting comments that generated 600 words, no real analysis and news-rail placement from ESPN. The tl;dr summary: Taking this to the presidents is bad, with the degree of "bad" to be determined by exactly how defined the commissioners' proposals turn out to be and how divided the presidents are on the relevant issues. Expect nothing until the fall; TV will save us.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Catching up has identified the shrimp fork

The Oklahoma dudes are gone: All those Oklahoma receivers who got suspended a couple weeks ago -- including Jaz Reynolds, this year's obvious No. 2 across from Kenny Stills, and backup Trey Franks -- are off the team. This is from Bob Stoops:
"(They) have been removed from scholarship and we aren't counting on any of them.

"We'll keep moving forward. This program doesn't bank on any one individual player. We've recruited a lot of really good players, so we'll keep moving on."
Wow. There was a report from OUInsider at the time of the "indefinite suspensions" that Franks would be done for the year and Reynolds would be out for seven games (an oddly specific number); apparently not.

I'm gonna be lazy here and blockquote my previous post on the three guys' suspensions:
Reynolds was third on the team last year with 41 catches for 715 yards and five touchdowns and would be a significant loss, especially with Ryan Broyles gone. Kenny Stills is pretty dang good and a legitimate No. 1 wideout, but depth might be an issue since Reynolds and Franks are the only other scholarship receivers on the roster who have ever caught a pass and might not even be on the roster by the time the season rolls around. ...

Keep in mind that Landry Jones was flat-out not good last year after Broyles got hurt. Whether that continues with even less experience at receiver (at least for the first half of the year) remains to be seen.
Yeah ... that. It might not be a coincidence that Oklahoma requested a transfer waiver Monday for junior receiver Jalen Saunders, a Broyles clone who had 1,065 yards and 12 touchdowns last year for Fresno State, made the All-WAC first team and and then bailed when Pat Hill was fired. Given that his reasons for transferring were (according to him) purely coach/system-related, a waiver approval seems unlikely; I can't remember a guy ever getting approved to play immediately just because his previous coach got fired and he didn't like whatever was going on with the new guy. Oklahoma probably figured it was worth a shot anyways since (a) the depth chart at receiver this year is horrifying and (b) the NCAA makes inexplicable decisions all the time.

BTW, defensive back Cortez Johnson -- who transferred from Arizona after the Mike Stoops relocation -- also requested a waiver. His doesn't sound any more likely than Saunders' given the lack of a family-emergency-type justification.

This is so John L. Smith: How was I just made aware that John L. Smith has a Twitter account? This is the hilarity that emanated from it the other day:

EVERYBODY STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING AND LEARN WHICH ONE IS THE SHRIMP FORK FOR SERIOUS THIS IS IMPORTANT. This is somehow both amazing and not at all surprising given the complete insanity of John L. Smith, who's apparently using "etiquette team dinners" as a way to fill the weekly time slot vacated by Bobby Petrino's "etiquette speed dating" (zing!).

As for his Twitter account, I've conducted a highly scientific study and determined that his tweets include an average of two exclamation points each and never fewer than one, because obviously tweeting is so exciting! #gohogs!!!
Hogs Win! Great game! Congratulations Razorbacks! Omaha Bound! Go Hogs!
 I have nothing more to add.

Speaking of Arkansas: The new-uniform unveiling du jour:

Reaction: The standard home/road unis aren't much different from the old ones and look fine, and I kinda like the different-but-still-classic-and-reasonable look of the white helmet. The black-ish ones are awful; they look color-reversed or something and are almost identical to Arkansas State's, which ... ummm ... yeah. Recreating another in-state school's uniforms just to have a black one because everybody's doing it = dumb. Get off my lawn, etc.

No more number retirement: Michigan announced a kind-of-vague program last year featuring "legends patches" as a way to honor guys whose numbers would typically be retired; the reason provided was that they simply couldn't retire any more numbers and still have enough for everybody to wear, thus honorary patches and the reissuing of the numbers.

The initial ceremony-type thing involved Desmond Howard and resulted in this, which will be worn by Roy Roundtree this year on the No. 21 jersey:

Program extension ahoy:
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- College football's winningest school is putting three of its five retired jerseys back on the field, honoring former President Gerald Ford, Bennie Oosterbaan and Ron Kramer as "Michigan Football Legends," this year.
A current player to be determined by the football staff will start wearing Ford's 48, Oosterbaan's 47 and Kramer's 87 after each former star is honored with a ceremony.

"The success and acceptance of the Desmond Howard Legend recognition led to conversations with the family members who had retired jerseys, several of whom were never recognized or celebrated in the appropriate manner," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. "The Ford, Kramer and Oosterbaan families want to see their family member honored in this way."

Tom Harmon's No. 98 and No. 11, which was worn by brothers Francis, Albert and Alvin Wistert, are the other two jerseys that have been retired.
Interesting. I don't have a particularly strong feeling about this either way given the school's number constraints (it seems unfair that Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard can't really be appropriately honored despite winning the freakin' Heisman Trophy) and the made-up-but-probably-true fact that 99 percent of Michigan fans can't identify more than half of the retired numbers and their accompanying players.

I do have two requests, though. The first: Don't issue those numbers to random Recruit X who almost definitely will have no appreciation for it and won't live up to it. I know that's what MGoBlog is calling for, but I'm of the opinion that it really has to be something meaningful that's earned over the course of a career, even if it means Player Y won't have a chance to establish his own number as something legend-worthy. The second: Keep 48 and 98 retired. Ford was the freakin' president of the United States, so his number obviously means something beyond "All-American offensive lineman," and Harmon was a Heisman winner who put up some of the most ridiculous numbers EVER, was on the covers of Time and Life, married a movie star and then went on to become a World War II hero (a legit hero). He was Tom Brady if Tom Brady had been even better at Michigan and then gone over and negotiated a Middle East peace treaty right after he left school. How is anybody gonna live up to that?

Anyway, other than that, I'm on board with the idea of doing something dynamic (for lack of a better word) to honor various dudes of yore rather than just putting a bunch of numbers across the top of the press box or whatever. And I don't seem to be alone ... so that's nice.

Sucks to be those guys: The punishment for Ohio State's Jake Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort, who were suspended indefinitely last week for "interfering with official business" (also known as urinating on the outside of a building at 2 a.m.):

No explanation needed.

Way to pay attention: South Alabama becomes an official member of the Sun Belt this year, according to everybody except the people in charge of NCAA Football, who are too busy trying to figure out how to include special mascot entrances and whatnot rather than include all the teams:
The Jaguars were left out of EA Sports' hit video game franchise NCAA Football 13 despite being a full-fledged member of the Sun Belt Conference in 2013.
Julie Foster, a communications manager at EA Sports, told, a South Alabama fan site, that the video game franchise didn't know South Alabama was going to be a full member of the FBS.

"South Alabama was a provisional member of FBS last year and did not play a full FBS schedule," she wrote the site in an email. "We did not receive confirmation that they were changing to a full FBS schedule this year until it was too late for inclusion in NCAA Football 13. South Alabama will be included in NCAA Football 14."
There are four schools moving up (for some reason) from the FCS to the Sun Belt this year, and South Alabama is the only one not included. Derp.

There's a reason I stopped buying NCAA Football two years ago, and while it has everything to do with gameplay and nothing to do with FCS team accuracy, this is a pretty good indicator of the state of the franchise. #bringback2kfootball

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Big Ten is happy with the BCS; nobody cares

I said last week that my where-things-stand-with-the-playoff-stuff post would be outdated by approximately Wednesday; I was way off. The Big Ten finished its presidents/chancellors meetings Sunday and then sent Jim Delany out into the world to say a bunch of things over the course of the next two days, which makes this post a little late (food poisoning FTW) but probably still useful to those of you who have lives and don't follow way too many people on Twitter.

There were two notable takeaways, one of which didn't come from Delany and one of which might be completely inaccurate depending on your interpretation of Delany-isms. The first:
"I think if the Big Ten presidents were to vote today, we would vote for the status quo. We think it best serves college football," Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said. "I don't think any of us are anxious to ask our student-athletes to play a 15th game. We think, in many respects it is as good as you can do."
Errr what? Perlman and I apparently have much different definitions of "best serves college football." I literally cannot comprehend any desire to maintain the debacle that is the status quo and would be infuriated if the above-quoted comments actually meant anything in terms of slowing/halting progress toward the playoff thing; they do not. Even Perlman realizes this:
"But we're also realistic that that doesn't seem to be something that has gotten a lot of support and that some movement is necessary. Our second strong preference would be for a plus-one."
Translation: A playoff cannot be stopped but might be manipulable to our benefit.

How much weight this "strong preference" carries is kinda hard to say; everyone other than sources from the Big Ten and Pac-12 has been saying that a plus-one is "off the table," which leads me to believe they're the only conferences pushing it and therefore are gonna end up getting thoroughly outnumbered come negotiatin' time. Here's an amusing response-type thing from Big 12 overlord Texas president DeLoss Dodds:
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the Wall Street Journal that a plus-one – a championship game after the bowls – was still on the table. When reminded of that news, Dodds smiled dismissively without commenting.
He then lit a ground-up-money-filled cigar with a $10,000 bill and commanded Iowa State to dance for his pleasure.

Anyway, "dismissive" would also accurately describe my reaction. I've explained repeatedly that I don't really see the benefit of a plus-one that's kinda/sorta like a playoff but isn't really a playoff and retains most of the problems inherent in the current system, and I don't think the support for it exists seeing as how everybody else -- even Jim Delany -- has already moved on from the format stuff and is instead debating the who/how selection issues.

I'm also not sure why the plus-one would be preferable to the Big Ten. What's the purpose of staying as close as possible to the status quo when the status quo has resulted in a 10-year national title drought and a 1-7 record in the Rose Bowl in that time? At no point in the last decade would a plus-one have resulted in a Big Ten team even playing for the national championship, let alone winning it, but WOO LET'S DO THAT!

The only conceivable benefit: The Rose Bowl has a basically guaranteed spot as a relevant semifinal-type game. That's apparently worth never actually winning anything.

The beauty in all of this is that the inevitable implementation of a four-team playoff (and I really believe it is inevitable based on the consensus support from everybody else) will save the Big Ten from its own Rose Bowl-centric stupidity and irrelevance. Yay for that. Boo for holding up the process with nonsensical negotiating-stance comments about things that have already been decided.

As for the second takeaway, here's the comment from Delany that made everybody run to the intertubes to discuss:
"I think it should be the four best teams," Delany said.
O RLY? That quote immediately jumped out at me as being significant in the determining-the-participants process seeing as how he's (apparently) completely reversed course in the past month. This is from a couple weeks ago:
At the Big Ten meetings earlier this month, Commissioner Jim Delany voiced support for a "hybrid model" that would give preference to high-ranked conference champions but would also make allowances in case one league had more than one elite team. At this point, the factions seem to be a group made up of the Big 12, the SEC and Notre Dame (top four) and a group made up of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12 (preference for conference champs).
So ... that's interesting. Also interesting was this tweet from Joe Schad, who was there when Delany made his "four best teams" comment and offered this interpretation:
Jim Delany has not done a 180. He still wants preference for conference champs. Some are misinterpreting "four best" comment.
There was little explanation as to what that meant; I'm assuming he's saying that Delany wants the four "best" teams but thinks that the top four in the standings don't necessarily represent the four "best."

That doesn't totally align with the rest of Delany's comments, though:
"I didn't really think that the conference champions-only (model) met the public's demand for elite teams playing each other," Delany said. "I thought the combination of champions and an elite at-large team regardless of status -- it could be a champion, could be an independent, could be a divisional runner-up or championship loser -- was probably the right formulation. But that was just to get the discussion going.

"I think that people understand now that our search right now is to find the best four football teams. However you do that, typically it's going to involve a lot of champions. I don't care whether it occurs in a committee, but I do think the two key issues are honoring champions, honoring strength of schedule, honoring teams and coaches that try to play a good schedule and recognizing teams that play an additional championship game versus one that doesn't."
I'm not entirely sure how to interpret all that but am going on the assumption that a top-four playoff would be acceptable to Delany (and, by proxy, the Big Ten) if there's either (a) a selection committee that can tweak the bracket to reward conference champs with higher seeds or (b) a ranking system that is weighted toward conference champs via bonus points or something.

Example: An extra 0.05 BCS-standings points for a conference title would have put Oklahoma State ahead of Alabama last year and almost entirely eliminated the gap between fifth-ranked Oregon and fourth-ranked Stanford but still resulted in Alabama finishing No. 3, which would have been fine (IMO) for maintaining the credibility of the playoff as a whole. Anything beyond that really starts to skew the standings to an unreasonable degree. FWIW, I'm on record as supporting a committee because of the potential benefits of bracket flexibility.

Whether that would fit into Mike Slive's "One, two, three, four" mandate from the SEC meetings is unclear since he hasn't really expanded on the possibility of modifying the selection formula. There's also still the Larry Scott problem: He's made it abundantly clear that the Pac-12 wants "competing in our conference and winning our conference to mean no less than it does today and maybe even more." That's pretty vague in terms of specific requirements but implies something much different from what the SEC is demanding.

As I wrote a few days ago, I still think there's a preference-for-conference-champions middle ground that can/will be found eventually. I'm less optimistic that it'll happen by the time the Presidential Oversight Committee gathers to compare monocles on June 26, though; the reneging on an apparent four-team consensus makes it hard to believe that everything from format to siting to eligibility to selection method is gonna be totally finalized in 16 days, especially with only two meetings in the interim (June 13 and June 20). I'll hope for the best anyway.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Catching up wears jean shorts

Because they had to pick somebody:
Matt McGloin will be Penn State's (probably crappy) starting quarterback this year. I know because Bill O'Brien announced it at a golf event (?) on Friday:
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien has named senior Matt McGloin the starting quarterback.

O’Brien announced his decision Friday at a charity golf tournament. McGloin, a redshirt junior, will top a depth chart that will also include Paul Jones and Rob Bolden. The Nittany Lions open the season on Sept. 1 vs. Ohio.

"We’ll probably release our depth chart on Tuesday morning," O’Brien said. "There won’t be too many surprises on there, I’m sure. But Matt McGloin will be our starting quarterback next year."
McGloin would fall into the "won't be too many surprises" category. He was the nominal starter for all but the first two games last season and was mediocre, which put him about three standard deviations ahead of Rob Bolden. Here are some numbers: 54.1 percent passing for 134 yards per start with eight touchdowns (three of which were against de facto bye week Eastern Michigan) and five picks. The latter ratio is fine but doesn't acknowledge that he went for under 100 yards three times in the last four games of the year despite averaging just over 23 attempts per game. That's pretty awful, especially for a guy with no real running ability, which is why he ended up 89th in the country in efficiency.

I thought Jones -- who was academically ineligible last year but was a relatively highly touted recruit in 2010 -- might get a shot based on potential; apparently not (not yet, anyway). McGloin is the most accurate of the three, which presumably will be of some benefit in an O'Brien passing game that shouldn't be as laughably bad as Penn State's recent versions.

It's not like there are traditions or anything: The SEC approved a new scheduling format Saturday that demonstrates exactly why superconferences suck. Here are the details:
The SEC announced Friday that it approved the 6-1-1 playoff format, which means each SEC team will play six divisional games, one cross-divisional rivalry game and one rotating cross-divisional game.

While the length of the 6-1-1 scheduling format has yet to be determined, commissioner Mike Slive said it will be around for at least three or four years, which opens a future door for a nine-game conference schedule.
Translation: SEC teams will play only one cross-divisional game each year other than their locked-in rivalry games, which means non-rivals that aren't in the same division will play once every six years. Georgia will play in Death Valley once every 12 years. Arkansas will play in The Swamp once every 12 years. Etc.

Going to nine conference games would make things better since at least you could rotate two non-rivalry cross-divisional games a year, allowing you to play everybody once every three years rather than once every six, but it still wouldn't be optimal and probably won't happen anyway since it would eliminate one of the sacrificial-lamb home games everybody wants.

Really, anything beyond 12 teams basically stops being a conference and becomes two conferences that share a name and little else (like games). There will be a point at which expansion's monetary benefits plateau because interest has done the same with meaningful games fewer and farther between. I'm not sure all the guys running various conferences realize this but am honestly thankful Jim Delany does:
"One of the most underrated qualities about any conference is its stability and the glue that holds it together," he said on Monday's league conference call. "And I think whenever you go beyond a certain level, you're running into possible dilution issues. ... The larger you are, the less you play each other. The less you play each other, the less tradition you have and the less those games tend to mean, if they can't be repeated over and over."
 That's ... like ... yeah. Yeah!

Best arrest ever:
Michigan defensive tackle Will Campbell was arrested in the wee hours of some morning last month, which would normally be cause for concern since he's a projected starter but instead has caused me to laugh continuously for about the last four days. This is why:
Michigan senior defensive tackle Will Campbell is facing one felony and one misdemeanor charge of malicious destruction of property stemming from an April 7 incident, according to court records.

According to Ann Arbor police, Campbell was arrested after attempting to slide across the hood of a vehicle at 2 a.m. on April 7 in the 600 block of Church Street. An officer in the area could hear the sheet metal on the hood of the car buckle under Campbell’s weight — he’s listed at 322 pounds — and arrested the senior, police stated.
I'm speechless. It should not be a surprise that the police report lists him as "intoxicated." That's probably the most concerning part since he doesn't turn 21 for another month.

Campbell was an uber-recruit four years ago who's done relatively little to date but will be starting (probably at the nose) this year as a senior, mostly because there are no other experienced options but maybe/hopefully because he's finally had a light-bulb moment under Greg Mattison and has figured out how to effectively use his ginormousness. Fortunately for me and Michigan's horrifyingly thin D-line, serious discipline sounds unlikely at this point since Brady Hoke has announced that there'll be no change in Campbell's status.

A slightly more amibiguous arrest: Ohio State's Jake Stoneburner (starting tight end) and Jack Mewhort (starting left tackle) were arrested outside Muirfield Village over the weekend for "interference with official business." That doesn't mean anything to anybody who's not a lawyer; word on the interwebs is that they were caught relieving themselves in a rather public location, and since it's on the interwebs, it must be true.

Anyway, whatever they were doing has resulted in this:
Ohio State issued a statement Monday saying that Meyer had suspended senior tight end Jake Stoneburner and junior offensive tackle Jack Mewhort after they were arrested by police on a misdemeanor charge of obstructing official business. The school said it had no further comment.
It probably goes without saying that indefinite suspensions for the starting left tackle and last year's leading receiver -- with 14 catches (!) for seven touchdowns (?!?) -- could be problematic. It also probably goes without saying that a suspension for a misdemeanor charge that stems from urinating on the outside of a building probably won't remain an indefinite suspension for very long, especially with Urban Meyer being the guy handling the discipline.

In the unlikely event that this actually produces something resembling missed playing time, Ohio State will probably survive the season opener against the Ohio version of Miami.

I will now go back to being amused by this response from Dominic Clarke, a potential starter at corner who got kicked off the team back in January following his second arrest in three months:
Sooo...lets see how urban meyer's bitch ass handles this one?

Jesse Scroggins to transfer: The lede pretty much says it all:
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jesse Scroggins will be leaving the USC football program and intends to transfer to another school.
Scroggins was the No. 2 QB recruit in the country three years ago and was supposed to be Matt Barkley's backup/heir apparent last year before breaking his thumb and missing most of the season. He was still the nominal backup heading into spring practice but couldn't participate at all because he was academically ineligible; at that point, Lane Kiffin started saying ominous things about his future as Max Wittek and Cody Kessler (both former five-star-ish recruits, obviously) took most of the second-team snaps. Translation: This news surprises nobody since Scroggins was apparently losing his job and might not have been eligible anyway.

Assuming he gets his grades in order, he'll have some options; guys with his level of ability aren't typically available to schools that aren't USC. The limiting factor will be his class standing: He's already used a redshirt year, so if he transfers to another D-I school, he'll have to sit out the 2012 season and then will have two years left starting in 2013, at which point he'll basically be a juco transfer who has never played a meaningful down. No word yet on potential destinations.

Avert your eyes: Maryland has designed and is considering installing a black, turtle-shell-patterned field. I am not making this up. Here's a photo that may or may not be the unofficial rendering:


And here's a little detail from the Washington Post:
This week, WUSA reported that “the turf being applied to the field will be either black or pewter,” according to “a source within the program."

A Maryland spokesman Friday disputed this report, saying that no decision has yet been made on the color or design of the field.
So it's not yet official, although that makes it no less disturbing. I'm assuming this is an UnderArmour project since I can't imagine anybody else (other than Nike) coming up with that. I mean, that thing (a) is literally painful to look at and (b) is gonna be SO FREAKIN' HOT in August/September; it'd be like playing football on a softer version of asphalt. No thanks.

My understanding was that the NCAA had passed a field-color rule back when Eastern Washington and Central Arkansas started doing inexplicably awful things with stripes and bright colors and whatnot; that apparently didn't happen, which means schools are free to do whatever stupidity draws attention.

Amazingly, installing a black field would not be the worst decision made by Maryland's athletic department in the last year and a half.


I like you if you like me: Andy Haggard is still openly begging for a Big 12 invite for Florida State. This is not newsworthy in and of itself but is made newsworthy by this comment:
“We have not heard a thing, and we have not approached them and they have not approached us,” said Haggard. “If anybody approaches us, we are certainly going to listen to them. We have an obligation to Florida State to listen. You can't close the door.”
Interesting. Whether that means the Big 12 is not particularly interested in expanding or is just waiting until all the TV stuff gets finalized is impossible to know. It would seem that there's TV money to be had, but that money might not be super enticing if it comes at the expense of potential playoff revenue/access (in terms of fewer undefeated winners of a stronger conference). We'll see.

Dr. Saturday (no longer writing as Dr. Saturday) is back! Matt Hinton is now writing for I discovered this was going to be happening a couple weeks ago and forgot to mention it; he published his first column the other day, so I'll mention it now.

An excerpt from said column, which of course includes some useful data about the pointlessness of the ALL CAPS possible-playoff-scenario arguments:
For all of the head-butting and maneuvering and even my own personal preferences, I'm not really convinced that the eventual decision is going to make any difference. Since the inception of the BCS, the best four teams and the best four conference champions tend to be one and the same.
Read it.

This is so accurate: It's the Michigan State edition of Black Heart Gold Pants' ongoing series of this-is-how-they-should-look Pro Combat mockups:

This is, without question, the best thing that has ever been posted on the internet. I will not debate this. It has everything.

Just because: This is from EDSBS (of course it is):

I have no explanation. And this is from the comments underneath that thing:

I dunno. I'm just giving you stuff.
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